£14,749 - £24,399 Price range
49 - 70 MPG
The old Grand Vitara suffered from lots of body roll in corners and overly light steering making it difficult to drive quickly with confidence. Both these problem have been addressed by this new model, which has the feel of a well-sorted hatchback.
It also has more interior space for passengers and the boot capacity – it’s comparable to that of a normal hatchback’s such as the VW Golf. The high-tech cabin is only let down by patchy material quality.
Providing the best combination between running costs and performance is the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol, which feels quick but is only available in the Vitara S. The two 1.6-litre engines (one diesel and one petrol) are older in design and don’t feel as spritely, although the former is the cheapest of all to run.
Standard equipment levels are decent and all models come with remote central locking, cruise control, climate control and a Bluetooth phone connection.
The new Vitara moves with the current trend for simplifying dashboard designs and mid-range models come with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment that controls most of the car’s systems leaving you with an uncluttered dashboard that is easy to use.
It’s pleasing to look at too, but not so good to touch – there are lots of hard plastics that get worse the lower down you look. The interior might not scream quality, but it feels durable and hard-wearing.
The good news is you can add a personal touch to the cabin with the customisable body-coloured strip that runs across the dashboard.
Suzuki Vitara interior space and storage
Passenger space isn’t class-leading, but the Vitara has plenty of headroom, while rear legroom is good for all but the tallest passengers. Go for the most expensive model and you get a panoramic sunroof which makes the interior more airy, but comes at the cost of decreased headroom for rear-seat passengers.
Storage areas in doors are generously sized and can easily hold a water bottle each, possibly compensating for the surprisingly small glovebox.
Suzuki Vitara boot space
The Vitara’s boot is 21 litres bigger than the one in it’s closest rival the Juke. However, at 375 litres in capacity, it’s smaller than the Skoda Yeti’s 416-litre load bay. You can also fold the rear seats of the Vitara, liberating 1,120 litres of space.
A great practical addition is the false boot floor – it eliminates the load lip, making sliding heavy items in or out easy plus it offers a concealed storage area for your valuables.
Suzuki Vitara infotainment
When we tested the Vitara we were impressed with the colour touchscreen for the sat-nav and radio controls. This screen is standard on SZ5 and SZ-T versions of the Vitara, and it’s split into four sections: music, phone, sat-nav and ‘connect’, which lets you mirror your smartphone’s apps on the screen. The sat-nav is quick and easy to use, although the icon you have to tap to start route guidance isn’t as obvious as we’d have liked.
Suzuki set out to make the new Vitara handle like the fun-to-drive Swift supermini and it has got surprisingly close to pulling it off.
There’s less body lean than you’d expect from a tall-riding 4×4 and an impressive amount of grip. You can drive as fast round corners as confidently as you would in a normal hatchback. The suspension does let bumps thud through to your backside around town, but at motorway speeds you get a really comfortable ride.
The only drawback with driving the Vitara at high speeds is that you have to increase the volume of the stereo to counter the road and wind noise. Much of this noise comes from buffeting around the door mirrors.
Light controls and excellent visibility make the Suzuki an accomplished city car and the raised ride height means it feels safer than a conventional (lower-slung) hatchback – you can see further up the road and over the top of most other cars. A drawback of the Vitara when driving in town is that it’s quite hard to picture where the front corners of the car are – you can’t see the end of the bonnet easily. Only the top-spec SZ5 model comes with front and rear parking sensors, so we’d plump for that version if you’re not a confident parker.
Differences between 1.6-litre petrol and diesel Vitaras
Suzuki has chosen to give petrol and diesel models their own unique characters. The latter fulfils the comfy cruiser role. Its suspension is more forgiving and comfortable. In the diesel, the petrol model’s five-speed gearbox is swapped in favour of a six-speed version for quieter cruising, although neither model’s engine is particularly noisy at the legal limit.
The petrol model, meanwhile, is the sports car of the line-up. Its engine sounds enthusiastic and encourages you to rev it like you would a sports car. It comes with stiffer suspension and feels great in corners.
We would be confident the Vitara can tackle muddy fields: the Allgrip four-wheel-drive system may be optional, but it’s quite sophisticated. It offers four presets – Auto, Sport, Snow and Lock. Auto is designed for cruising, while Sport sends more power to the back wheels for prowess in corners, Snow is (naturally) best suited to winter roads, while Lock sends an equal amount of power to each wheel to give the car its best chance of dragging itself out of the stickiest of off-road predicaments.
Fuel economy is an area where the old Grand Vitara fell well behind the competition. The new model addresses that with a diesel engine capable of fuel economy of more than 65mpg, and a high-tech new petrol engine.
Suzuki Vitara diesel engines
The new Vitara weighs about 300kg less than the old model and CO2 emissions of 106g/km mean the SUV costs just £20 to tax. Choose the optional four-wheel-drive system and emissions rise to 111g/km for annual tax of £30.
The 118hp diesel engine has plenty of low down shove (236lb ft from 1,750rpm; about double the petrol’s output) to help it cope better when the car is fully loaded, towing or tackling tough off-road inclines. It’s noisy under acceleration, but settles down at a cruise.
Suzuki Vitara petrol engine
Fitted with the five-speed manual gearbox, the two-wheel-drive petrol model is expected to return fuel economy of nearly 53.3mpg, while the six-speed auto drops that slightly to 51.3mpg. Fit four-wheel drive and those figures further slip to 50.4mpg and 49.5mpg, respectively. Annual tax should be around the £130 mark.
When we drove the petrol Vitara on the motorway the onboard computer was reporting an average of 48mpg – impressive for a petrol engine pushing a boxy 4×4 SUV through the air.
The petrol model matches the 120hp of the diesel, but delivers a completely different experience – it loves to rev and sounds pretty sporty doing it. It’ll get from 0-60mph in 11.5 seconds, or 12 seconds if you add the 4×4 system.
Suzuki Vitara S
In late 2015 the range was joined by the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol fitted to the Vitara S. It has the feel of a bigger engine, offering more thrust than the conventional 1.6-litre at normal speeds, yet retaining that engine’s keenness to rev. It’s the fastest model in the range, with 0-62mph taking 10.2 seconds on the way to a top speed of 124mph, and qualifies as the choice for anyone who enjoys driving. However, the engine’s high-tech design means it can return fuel economy of more than 50mpg and road tax of £110 a year.
The Vitara was awarded five stars by Euro NCAP in a 2015 crash test, and was commended for doing a great job of protecting both adult and child occupants. The Vitara’s seats were praised for minimising whiplash.
Safety equipment available on the new Vitara includes active cruise control, seven airbags, stability control and automatic emergency braking. The active cruise control, standard on the top-spec SZ5 models, is far easier to use than some more expensive competitors’ systems – you simply click two buttons on the steering wheel, and can easily adjust the distance you’d like to keep from the car in front. The Vitara then speeds up and slows down as necessary, and can slow the car quite rapidly as the traffic builds up.
Vitaras have always been the SUV for people who want four-wheel drive without paying a premium over a conventional hatchback and the new model continues the trend.
Suzuki Vitara SZ4
The basic Vitara comes with automatic air conditioning, DAB radio, Bluetooth, a USB input and cruise control as standard, which is similar to what you get in an entry-level VW Golf.
Suzuki Vitara SZ-T
Mid-range SZ-T models get larger alloys, tinted windows and smartphone streaming of audio and sat nav instructions. There are two optional packs, costing £500 each, called Urban and Rugged. The latter focuses on making the Vitara look more distinctive by adding chrome exterior details, while the rugged pack replaces these with scratch-resistant plastic and also adds skid plates to protect the car’s underside from rocks when you’re off-roading.
Suzuki Vitara SZ5
SZ5 trim gets LED headlights, keyless entry, adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof and automatic emergency braking. The part-leather, part-suede seats on the SZ5 Vitara give the car a more premium, and the sliding panoramic sunroof floods the interior with light making it a pleasant place to spend time in.
Suzuki Vitara S
The Vitara S shares its specification with SZ5 models, but gets some exterior changes that give it a sportier look including black 17-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and a sinister black grille.
The latest Vitara is a real return to form for Suzuki. Not only has it put together a practical off-roader, it’s also added a sense of style and created a car that’s fun to drive as well as being great value.
It looks set to be a better car than the Nissan Juke and a more rugged alternative to the Skoda Yeti. We recommend the characterful petrol model fitted with four-wheel drive, but high-mileage drivers could well sway towards the diesel model and its lower runnings costs.